A new law concerning organ donation could save as many as 700 lives a year, the government has said.
The change, which is to be known as Max’s Law, after a 10-year-old boy whose life was saved by a heart transplant, will presume everyone is a donor unless they explicitly opt-out.
The new system will now be introduced after a consultation showed the public are overwhelmingly in favour of organ donation, but only a minority have registered as organ donors.
Currently, those wishing to become an organ donor must register to do so. Even after registering, donations can typically only take place with a loved one’s consent, as even in cases where a person is a registered donor, figures show that 1,200 families a year refuse to allow donation.
Fewer than half of families give consent for their loved one’s organs to be donated. Furthermore, while research shows that 82 per cent of people in England support organ donation, only 37 per cent have indicated so on the register
In 2017, 411 people in the UK died on the transplant waiting list.
There will be a one-year introductory period to give people time to register their wishes before it takes effect in Spring 2019, the Department of Health and Social Care has said.
Under-18s, people with limited mental capacity and others who have not lived in England for at least a year prior to their death will be exempt from the scheme.
Those who do not wish to donate can record this on the NHS register either online, by phone or on an app to be released by the end of the year.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “There is a desperate shortage of organ donors in the UK.
“Introducing an opt-out system in England will better reflect the views of the general public and give hope to those currently waiting for a transplant they so desperately need.”
However, in its analysis of the new policy, the NHS has suggested that plans could fail because hospitals are so short of transplant surgeons and specialist nurses.
The analysis, carried out by the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) impact assessment shows that lives could be lost because teams of organ retrieval specialists are already under “extreme stress” and understaffed transplant centres are struggling to keep up with existing demand.